Mitchell’s Comment


VANCOUVER, CANADA - OCTOBER 17: Defenceman Willie Mitchell #8 of the Vancouver Canucks sits on the bench during the pre game warmup prior to the NHL game against the Minnesota Wild on October 17, 2009 at General Motors Place in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

In his September 5th article for The Province, Tony Gallagher takes up Willie Mitchell’s recent comment:

"We have a big gap in our union where you have the star player and the blue-collar player. All those top-end guys are getting paid more and more and the bottom-end guys are getting less and less. Maybe if we come to something more level, it might help the rest of our union."

Gallagher presents a series of quick arguments against what he understands to be Mitchell’s position. He argues, among other things, that no group of players is held back more than the top level stars in the league, for the reason that they are restricted from making any more than 20% of their team’s payroll. Mid-level stars also suffer, he says. Because of, say, Ovechkin’s big salary, which takes up a huge percentage of the team’s overall salary allotment, someone like Semin is being paid much less than he might otherwise be.

Though right in one sense, it is a curious thing that Gallagher’s attention and sympathy always goes to the seeming plight of the star players and not the blue collar ones. In one form or another, all of his points are meant to show just how inaccurate it is for Mitchell to say that top-end guys are getting paid more and more. Ovechkin could get 15 million on the free market if there was no salary cap. Instead, he has to settle for 9 or 10 million a year. Poor guy. But what about the decent bottom-end players who are also a part of, and affected by, the current situation? Isn’t the average player on a team where top players eat up most of the team’s payroll also going to be adversely affected, that is, underpaid? Mitchell doesn’t explain what he means but it is disconcerting to me that we have individual teams where 80% of the players on it make $ 800 000 and less. Surely this doesn’t reflect the real value of every one of those individual players in that group. Maybe something like this is what Mitchell was on about.